Monday, December 30, 2013

Shading the brown pens

When the new Renaissance tiles came out from Zentangle I was a very happy camper. Shading and highlighting are some of my favorite things to do on any tile and now that the tan tiles encourage us to use the brown Micron pens - well I had to shade them too! But how? And what color to shade them with? 

There are many possible ways to shade them - watercolors, pastels, markers, etc. I choose to use colored pencils. There too, there are several good brands of colored pencils available. The brand that I have on hand is Prismacolor. I set out to see what color would work best.

First off, I want to be sure you understand WHICH Pigma Micron pen I'm using. There are two brown colors that are on the market. One is this reddish brown color, and the other is a very, dark brown (they call it sepia). If you look at the barrel of the pen in the store, look for the number XSDK05 #12 - The #12 is the important number. You can use an 01 or 05 size. (My preference is the 05.) Good art supply stores will sell the pens. Some of the big box art supply stores may have them too.

I picked out every single color that I had on hand that sort of looked like it might work and made up this chart. (Keep scrolling for bigger pictures) With the brown pen I made a series of lines and below that I did a solid patch with the brown pen. I repeated this for each test sample. With the colored pencil I lightly added color over the series of lines and also to the side of the solid patch. I stress the word lightly because I always start my shading off with a very light touch. It's easy to add more color if needed but hard to take it away. At the right of the color name I used the color full strength. I seldom use a colored pencil full strength, but I wanted to have it as reference.

If you want to see a color chart online for Prismacolor pencils, here are two links.

By the way, the paper I used is a pure white - not a grey as it appears in the photograph. Be aware that the colors you see on your screen may be slightly different when you do them at home.

Also, you can click on any picture and make it bigger.

These colored pencils all have sort of an orange tint to them - and surprise! They ended up being the ones I liked best.

These colored pencils were more reddish. The Henna one might work, but I didn't like the others.

These colors are the ones that are more typically thought of as 'brown'. I wasn't really liking any of these. The Chocolate color though, might be useful if I want to add an extra dark color in small places.

Here are my top choices on the back of a Renaissance tile. My top choices are the Terra Cotta or the Burnt Ochre. The other two colors are ones I will also use but more for my colored tiles or for layering colors.

This is one of my hand colored zendalas where I did the tangles using the brown pen, highlighted it with white and shaded with one of my colored pencils. I did this a while ago so I can't be sure, but it was probably the Terra Cotta pencil.

Have fun playing with your art supplies and finding the best color for you!


  1. Thanks for this Sue. I haven't purchased any of the Ren. tiles yet, but I do like using the brown pens on tinted paper. I like your choices for shading.

  2. This is a very helpful article, Sue. Thank you so much. Your tiles are beautiful, and I had picked the same shade colors as you did... right down to the chocolate!

  3. Thanks for the details and all the pictures of your charts. So many supplies -- so little time


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